Friday, February 13, 2004

We're still nickel-and-diming our airport security, and the result is understaffing and poor performance. Good thing we have those tax cuts!

Airport screening jobs are turning over faster than expected at some of the busiest airports and the government isn't moving fast enough to fill them, a congressional investigator and airport officials told lawmakers Thursday....

The turnover of Transportation Security Administration screeners averages 14% a year but is as high as 36% at very large airports, according to Cathleen Berrick, director of Homeland Security and Justice at the General Accounting Office. She testified that recent interviews revealed 11 of the 15 busiest airports didn't have enough screeners.

The GAO said low pay and undesirable hours are reasons why part-time jobs go unfilled.

One federal security director told the GAO that the delay in filling vacant jobs made it hard to improve screeners' performance and "contributed to screener complacency because screeners were aware that they were unlikely to be terminated due to staffing shortages," Berrick's written testimony said....

This is the part that makes me furious:

Rep. James Oberstar, D-Wis., said Congress set an arbitrarily low limit on the number of full-time screeners who could be hired.

"TSA has been handicapped by the ill-advised cap of 45,000 full-time screeners imposed by the Appropriations Committee, a cap imposed without any basis for determining that 45,000 was the right number," Oberstar said.

Berrick reported that the TSA is trying to improve its work force planning. Among the changes: hiring part-time workers to fill in during the busiest shifts.

As The Boston Globe reported last December, people, quite logically , don't want to go through extensive for a poor-paying part-time job -- and hiring enough full-timers seems not to be an option:

The TSA stopped hiring full-time workers after it laid off 6,000 screeners nationally in May to cut costs and alleviate overstaffing. Many airports have since struggled with long lines during peak travel hours and on holidays, causing the agency to seek part timers to work at 40 airports, including Logan [Airport in Boston, departure point of the two planes that crashed into the World Trade Center].

But few people have shown interest in applying for a part-time position that requires intensive background checks, weeks of training, and long, odd hours dealing with a frustrated traveling public....

Why can't we alleviate these shortages? Is paying a decent wage to non-CEOs just intolerable to Republicans?

No comments: